The Light in the Trees

Young Adult - Coming of Age
390 Pages
Reviewed on 03/20/2018
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Author Biography

Inspiration for The Light in the Trees came from my own camp experience when I was a boy. I dabbled in a little mischief but never managed to ascend to the level of trouble Cabin 7 got itself into. This book spun out of a series of flashbacks I wrote twenty-plus years ago for what is now the current novel's sequel, coming in August, 2018.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

The Light in the Trees is a coming of age novel for young adults and preteens written by Jeff Van Valer. When he was 10 years old, Ted wasn’t at all sure about spending that first summer at White Birch Camp. His dad and mom knew it, but together they were able to get him to give camp a try. All he had to do, his dad told him, was to sit out on the bench they were sitting on now and watch the way the leaves on the trees on the other side of the lake fluttered in the wind. His dad said to pretend those leaves were his mom and dad waving and talking to him. Ted said he’d try, and, yes, he did love camp that summer -- and the next. But his third summer was different. Ted was 12 years old, and his life had changed in the most awful of ways. His mom had died the previous October. Ted didn’t know why he was even going to camp that summer at all, and a small part of him wondered if his dad wasn’t just trying to get rid of him for a few months. Maybe his dad would enjoy his freedom so much that he wouldn’t even want to pick him up at summer’s end.

Jeff Van Valer’s coming of age novel for young adults and preteens, The Light in the Trees, is dedicated to anyone who remembers going away to camp, but I think that those of us who never did get the camp experience may have even more wistful moments of “if only” after reading this inspired book. I loved getting to live the camp experience vicariously through Ted’s third summer at White Birch. Watching him learn to deal with his cabin mates and seeing them form loyalties and gain a sense of team camaraderie was inspiring. Each of these young campers is poised on the brink of adulthood, yet still childish enough to love the swims and other camp activities, and to relish the thought of a giant sloth monster. The character studies of the campers, Mr. Dinwiddie and Isaac are marvelous, and White Birch Camp was magically transformed, by book’s end, into a real place in my mind, scarred by the fires, but still very much a place where summers become endless and friends become family. I love coming of age stories and have read quite a few of them. The Light in the Trees is one of the special ones, the rare story that stays shimmering and bright in your mind days after you finish reading it. It’s most highly recommended.

Jeff Van Valer

5.0 out of 5 starsDelightful Coming of Age Suspense Thriller
March 21, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Ahh. Summer Camp. Twelve-year olds apprehensive about leaving home for the summer. Especially Ted. His mom had just died and he believes his dad is dropping him off for the summer just to get rid of him so he can go do his own thing. As the summer goes on, Ted gets busy with activities of the camp, especially with the boys in Cabin 7. He discovers first love when he spots Karen, the director’s daughter. All is going well…until the cabin bully starts showing his colors. And then, with a few bad choices, the boys in Cabin 7 are deep in trouble…and things just escalate from there…until they have a horrible secret that’s hard to keep …and suspicions and whispers start between them.

This book has it all: first love, love between a boy and his parents, camp counselors and the smell of a camp cabin, humor, a bully, trust, loyalty, and then distrust, danger, a horrible incident, disappointment, and then renewed hope. Author Van Valer really knows how to write tension and suspense, and his story packs a punch…I was literally reading as fast as I could so I could find out what happened next! Such a delightful and suspenseful book that I really didn’t want it to end. But like all good summers, it must come to an end. But…with the hint that there will be another

Sandra Vattimo
5.0 out of 5 starsI love the layers written into this coming of age story
March 21, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
At first glance, this book reads as a “coming of age” story about a group of boys, from all walks of life, being typical boys at summer camp in 1970.

From all over the country, parents send their boys to White Birch Camp in Michigan where they are made to spend two months living in the same space with other strangers. Boys of all personality types are required to learn to cooperate and work together as a team. This summer, the boys of Cabin 7 took that spirit to a new level.

I love the author’s writing style. The descriptions naturally drew me into the book. I effortlessly found myself walking down Cabin Row with Ted and Karen. I peered out across Loon Lake and wondered what mysteries it held. I growled at the mean kid and wondered how Ted was going to last 8 weeks living in the same vicinity. I cringed each time the boys began making plans.

I quickly came to learn this story is also about perception. The majestic white birch will lose the spiritual affect if the onlooker is filled with sorrow. The respect you feel may just be someone using you to satisfy their needs. Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side of the hiking trail. From this, I learned the importance of communication. Much heartache can be alleviated with a few simple words.

The fun part of this book was catching glimpses of future events written in unassuming statements in each chapter. It’s like a spoiler and cliff hanger all wrapped up in one sentence. For example, what could a “coppery taste” elude to?

After coming to the end of the book, I understand what those statements represent. I won’t ruin the epiphany for you, just keep the thought in the back of your mind as you read for yourself. There was a statement left unanswered. Thankfully, there’s a second book being released towards the end of this year.

Jeff Van Valer

Thank you to Reader's Favorite for reviewing my novel, The Light in the Trees. I'll submit its successor to you in August, 2018.